Our Introduction to New Orleans: Lunch at Antoine's
When we arrived in New Orleans, we drove to the hotel, quickly changed out of our much-too-hot-for-Southern-weather clothes, and decided to explore the French Quarter in search of a good lunch. We loved our stroll down Royal Street and had fun popping in and out of galleries and shops as we went. We passed several restaurants as we walked and they all looked good, but Antoine's was the one that captivated us for our first lunch in New Orleans.
Antoine's is the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States and I believe it's also the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Antoine's has been serving delicious food in New Orleans since 1840 and five generations of the same family have run the restaurant. We had the pleasure of speaking with one of the family members during our lunch and he mentioned that he's hoping a sixth generation will step up and take the reigns when the time comes.
Antoine's has several large and grandly decorated dining rooms. We were seated in the front dining room where most of the lunch patrons had gathered. As you can see from the photo above, the room is spare but elegant, illuminated by vintage chandeliers and tiny lights lining the ceiling. This was such a great atmosphere to introduce us to New Orleans because this dining room felt so Old World, charming, and French-influenced.
Antoine's menu is extensive and making a decision was difficult becauce everything looked appealing. Before coming to New Orleans, I had made a mental checklist of all the traditional foods that I had to have on this trip. Turtle soup made the list. Instead of turtle soup, Antoine's serves alligator soup, which is very similar to turtle soup but with alligator instead. Intrigued, Win and I both ordered the alligator soup as an appetizer.
The soup was delicious. If you haven't had alligator or turtle soup before, I'd recommend it. It's hard to describe but to me it tastes somewhat like a really flavorful chili with a vegetable soup air about it and plenty of sherry. Yeah, I know that description makes no sense and is virtually impossible to imagine, but it's really what I think it tastes like. Just take the leap and be sure to try the alligator soup if you ever have the chance.
For my entree, I ordered soft shell crab. I am such a fan of soft shell crabs and usually can't resist them when I spot them on a menu. Antoine's did a lovely job with this one...simple, pan-fried and delicious served with little roasted potatoes.
Win opted for the Chicken Rochambeau. This was broiled chicken served with two delicious sauces, a sweet brown rochambeau and a tangy béarnaise. The chicken sat atop a slice of baked ham. He loved it and was impressed with how well the sauces complemented the dish.
After lunch, we took a walk through Antoine's many dining rooms to look at their vast collections and mementos. A sweet busboy noticed us checking out the celebrity photos on the walls and pointed us to photos of two of Antoine's most prominent guests, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Pope. I wonder if the Pope had the alligator soup too...hmmm.
We worked our way into the Rex Room which possessed a stunning display of Mardi Gras finery.
The Rex Room was created in recognition of "The Crewe Of Rex" whose King reigns over the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Its walls are adorned with photos of Mardi Gras royalty and memorabilia, such as crowns, scepters and gowns. We weren't able to capture the full splendor of the room with our little camera, so if you're interested in seeing a more detailed view of the Rex Room and Antoine's other dining rooms, click here.
Lunch at Antoine's was a really special way to kick off our stay in New Orleans. We enjoyed soaking in the history, the decor, the sense of New Orleans tradition and of course the delicious food.
Upon exiting Antoine's I was amused to see that Gennifer Flowers has a cabaret show across the street from the restaurant. Yes, that Gennifer Flowers...the one who said she had an affair with Bill Clinton. I hadn't thought about her in years and found it kind of funny that she's a singer now with her own club.
After lunch, we decided to walk around the French Quarter some more and we stopped at a bar for a hurricane or two. Then it was off for an afternoon nap...ah, the decadence!
713 Rue Saint Louis
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Telephone: (504) 581-4422
Fax: (504) 581-3003
Next time: A delicious dinner at one of the French Quarter's best kept secrets